‘Ethnic cleansing’ best describes what happened to Native Americans in Texas

Bizar Male
  • The book answers the question: Where did the Native Americans of Texas go?
  • Immigrant American Indians, driven out of the U.S., were part of the Texas ethnic mix in the 19th century.
  • Some Anglo-Americans would not rest until all Native Americans were expelled or exterminated.

In Texas, where did the Native American communities go?

In most western states, indeed in several eastern ones, indigenous peoples and their cultures, modern and traditional, are present and visible in the public sphere.

Texas, on the other hand, is home to just three surviving small reservations, two of which, the Alabama-Coushatta in East Texas and the Kickapoo on the Rio Grande, were set aside for immigrant Native Americans, meaning the remnants of tribes what were forced into Texas from their original homelands in the eastern United States.

Even the Tiguas, who control the state’s third reservation — this one in the El Paso area — were actually immigrants in a sense from what is now New Mexico, having left their homelands after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

What happened, then, to the Caddos, Comanches, Wichitas, Kiowas, Apaches, Karankawas, Tonkawas, Coahuiltecans, Jumanos and other indigenous Texas tribes?

More:$500K donation, Post Malone sings country and more from Matthew McConaughey’s We’re Texas benefit

Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, whose mother was twice-captured Cynthia Park, is pictured at Fort Sill in 1897. Parker is known not only as the last warrior chief of the Comanches, but also for adapting to life after the Texas-Native American wars. His was among the last chapters in those wars, which lasted roughly from 1820 to 1875.

Their full and tragic stories have unfolded very slowly for later Texans in part because English-speaking Anglo-Americans mythologized the invasion of the West. They also proved to be incurious about Native American points of view on these struggles.

Years ago, during a packed book signing in Austin, a reader asked a famous Texas author what the Native Americans thought about the frontier wars of the late 19th century.

Famous author: “We don’t know because they didn’t write it down.”

Sitting in the back of the hall, I choked back my alarm at such an offhand response, because I, like millions of Americans, had read “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the West.”

In 1970, archivist Dee Brown shook the ground with his detailed account of the systematic displacement and massacre of Native Americans, whose words had been copiously recorded at council meetings, treaty parlays, trade encounters, journalistic interviews and so forth. Some historians took issue with some of Brown’s conclusions, but his remains a powerful book today.

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